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Looking Back 2004-2011

I finished university at the end of 2003 and started teaching in January 2004.

Like all graduate teachers, the beginning of my teaching career was a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I felt like I had a lot of role models around me on staff. As I embarked on my career, I remember thinking a lot about what makes a good teacher and what sort of teacher I’d like to be.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in the past eight years. I know I’ve changed enormously since 2004 but have all teachers? Are those teachers who were role models for me in 2004 still roles models?

Sadly, in the majority of cases, the answer is no. The simple fact is, some teachers are teaching the same as they were in 2004 when the world was a different place.

There is no denying that technology has changed the way we live. So many of the tools I use now in my classroom, professional learning or administration have only come about in the last eight years.

Here are some examples:

  • Interactive whiteboards – I didn’t even see one until about 2007. Now most classrooms in our school are equipped with interactive whiteboards and I use mine for every lesson.
  • iPod Touch – Launched in 2007, I started using iPod Touches in 2008 and they’re regularly integrated into my curriculum.
  • iPad - Launched in 2010, I started using mine in the classroom this year.
  • Edublogs - Launched in 2005, I started blogging in 2008. Edublogs has now reached one million blogs.
  • YouTube - Launched 2005.
  • Twitter - Launched 2006.
  • Flickr - Launched 2004.
  • Facebook - Launched 2004.
  • Diigo - Launched 2006
  • Skype - Launched 2003.

The world had changed so much since I began. Who knows what the next eight years will bring. All I can say is I plan to ride the wave, embrace change, reflect and reinvent!

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

How has your teaching changed since you started in the profession?

Troubleshooting Computer Problems

I am a big advocate of training my students to become as independent as possible with technology. Many technology users can get bogged down with “technical issues” which can take away from the benefits of using the tools.

As I have written about before here and here, I try to make my use of ICT explicit to my Grade Two students. While teaching incidental skills, rather than simply instructing, I like to ask the students what they think we should do. I believe that confident users of ICT use their intuition a lot and this is something I want to develop in my students.

With the addition of 20 new netbooks to our classroom, the need for students to be able to troubleshoot their own problems has increased.

I recently made this poster to remind students of the troubleshooting skills we have discussed incidentally.

After going through the poster with the students, it is displayed in various places in the classroom as a constant reminder of how to troubleshoot common computer problems.

For a little bit of humour, I love this cartoon that Kim Confino once published in a blog post.

tech_support_cheat_sheet

What other troubleshooting tips could you add?

How do you teach your students to troubleshoot?

Learning to Type

Over the years, the need for my students to be able to type has become increasingly important.

Being able to type with reasonable speed and accuracy helps students to better cope with the technological world they live in. Students are increasingly going to be held back in their school work, everyday life and future career if they don’t have adequate typing skills.

Of course, we still write with pencil and paper daily in our grade two class and have formal handwriting lesson,s but I find typing lessons and practice is often neglected in the primary curriculum.

Throughout the course of each year, I see a big improvement in students’ typing skills just from the regular practice they have with blogging, however we try to do typing practice where we can. This has become easier with the 20 netbooks and 10 classroom computers we now have in our class of 43 students. Typing practice is now a regular activity in 2KM and 2KJ.

Typing Test

Last week, I had the students take a typing test.

Thanks to @rebeccacarr87 for suggesting 10 Fast Fingers Speed Test which, despite the ads, was perfect for my grade two students. It contained high frequency words and no punctuation. It also gives a simple “words per minute” (wpm) score.

typing2

I wrote the students’ best wpm score on a class list and told them we’ll retest again with the goal of improving by the end of the year. The score range was 4 to 21 with an average score of 9.5 wpm. It will be interesting to see how they improve. I only wish I had thought to test them at the beginning of the year!

Teachers of older students might find this Typing Speed Test more useful as it contains more complex paragraphs including punctuation. This test gives a speed and accuracy score.

Typing1

Online Typing Activities

I have put together a collection of free, online typing games for my students into this Sqworl.

The link is http://sqworl.com/9r5u8p

Typing sqworl

Feel free to use it with your students too!

Lessons Vs Practice

I like to give my students a mix of formal tuition in typing as well as practice time.

How people get to the point of being able to touch type is something that interests me. I learnt “by doing” while my colleague, Kelly Jordan learnt through formal lessons, however we both got to the same place as proficient touch typists.

If you consider yourself a touch typist, I am interested to hear how you learnt to type. Did you learn by doing or did you learn through formal touch typing lessons?  Please complete this quick poll!

How do you approach typing lessons and practice with your students?


Do you know of any other good typing websites?

RSCON3 – Free PD in your PJs!

Want the chance to be inspired by education professionals from around the world while relaxing in your PJs?

RSCON3 is the third Reform Symposium e-conference for educators.

It is 100% free and is scheduled to be held on July 30th – August 1st, 2011.

RSCON3 will focus on interactive presentations that help teachers create engaging and motivating lessons, build relationships with students, engage parents, integrate technology effectively and much more.

This event is suitable for anyone with an interest in education.

RSCON3

My presentation – Connecting with Global Blogging Buddies

Time – 10:30am Saturday 30th July (GMT+10 time). Click here to find out what time this is for you.

Summary - One of the most exciting aspects of educational blogging is making global connections. In this presentation I will discuss how my grade two class came to have many blogging buddies around the world who we collaborate with regularly.

Five things you can do:

  • Visit the Reform Symposium website to register, check out the schedule, presenters and more.
  • Write the time for my presentation in your calender. Click here to find out what time this is for you.
  • Tweet about the conference using the #RSCON3 hashtag. Click here to follow #RSCON3
  • Get a badge for your blog, Facebook, Twitter profile or website to say you are attending RSCON3.
  • Let the staff at your school know about RSCON3. You could email them the link to this post or print off/email this flyer.

What are you looking forward to at RSCON3?

Guest Post about Twitter on PLN Challenge

As I have blogged about before, Edublogs supports a Student Blogging Challenge and Teacher Blogging Challenge which are two excellent forms of free professional development.

The current Teacher Blogging Challenge is called “30 Days to a Whole New PLN”.

There will be two or three posts each week about setting up, enhancing, and participating in your very own personal learning network.

This week, I was invited to write a guest post on using Twitter to build your PLN.

Click here to find the post

In this post I answer

  • What is Twitter
  • Why you should be interested in Twitter
  • What you will get out of being on Twitter
  • How to get started with Twitter to build your PLN

Guest post Twitter PLN

Head over to the Teacher Challenge site and check it out!

The Power of ClustrMaps

This post marks another milestone on this blog

50000 visitors

A huge thank you for all your support! More than two years later, I am still enjoying writing this blog more than ever due to the wonderful community of readers and supporters I am a part of.

I use ClustrMaps to keep track of visitors both on this blog and on my class blog. I also use Google Analytics which provides some excellent data but that is another blog post!

ClustrMaps is something we use as a powerful teaching tool in our classroom.

Kelly Jordan and I start every day by looking at our class blog together with our students on the interactive whiteboard. One of the first things we do is check out our ClustrMap. Our grade two students love seeing how our visitor total is progressing.

clustrmap check

Our ClustrMap check offers so many teachable moments.

We have seen our students’ understanding of place value increase by this daily authentic activity. We use a place value chart to keep track of our visitors and every day we talk about how many thousands, hundreds, tens and ones are in our visitor number.

The students are able to apply the strategies we’re learning in maths to make predictions and calculations about our visitor count. It is a great chance for students to be able to share their strategies about how they worked out a problem (eg. how many more visitors will we need to get to 8000?).

DSC07453

Maths isn’t the only focus when we visit our ClustrMap. The red dots on the map and current country totals provide an authentic avenue to teach and discuss geography. We talk about what countries and cities most of our visitors are coming from and theorise why this is the case.

Our seven and eight year old students are becoming familiar with the world map and are developing an understanding of our place in our global society.

How do you use ClustrMaps or other blogging tools to create authentic teachable moments?

Windows 7 Features I Love

I’ve been using Windows 7 for eighteen months now. I felt a bit silly when I finally decided to learn how to use one of Windows 7 most advertised features the other day- the “Snap” feature to display two windows side by side. It looks great!

This discovery made me think about the large number of Windows 7 users I know who aren’t using some of the great features Windows 7 has to offer.

I’m the type of person who is often looking for a better way to do things so I am sometimes perplexed to see many computer users happy taking the long route. I continually find myself frustrated using the computer in my classroom that is hooked up to the interactive whiteboard and is running Windows XP. I miss some of my timesaving features!

I thought I’d share some of the Windows 7 features that I love. Please comment with any other features you enjoy!

Snap

This feature makes comparing two windows side-by-side and multitasking a breeze. A few days ago, someone asked me if I knew how it works. I admitted that I didn’t after trying to figure it out when I first got Windows 7 and giving up too soon!

To use this feature, simply make sure the two windows you want to put side by side are restored (the “square” option in the top right hand side of your screen).

1. Drag the title bar of a window to the left side of the screen until the mouse is on the edge of the screen and an outline of the expanded window appears. Alternatively, press ‌Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Left Arrow.

2. Release the mouse to expand the window then repeat to arrange the other window on the right hand side.

snap

Don’t get it? There is a video demonstrating the feature here.

Sticky Note

This is an incredibly simple feature which I understand is enhanced from the Windows Vista feature. I use the sticky note for my to-do list. I have experimented with all different sorts of ways to maintain a to-do list in the past from an actual paper sticky note, Outlook task list, Word document and Firefox add ons. The sticky note is simple, can be colour coded and goes everywhere with me (and my PC).

sticky note

Find out more about sticky notes here.

Search in the Start Menu

If you’re like me, your PC is a maze of documents, videos, music, pictures and other applications. When I’m looking for something, I simply open the Start Menu and type in the name of the file I’m looking for. Voila! Search results appear in seconds. No more wading through libraries and racking your brain to remember where you filed things!

start menu

Improved Taskbar

The taskbar is the tray with icons at the bottom of your screen. Pinning and jump lists means you can have the files and applications you use most right at your fingertips. Windows 7 lets you organise your taskbar with the programs you use most with bright clear icons, much like a Mac.

Hover your mouse over icons with open windows to preview them. Another way that multitasking is made easier!

taskbar

Find out more about customising your taskbar here.

Show Desktop

The show desktop button is incredibly handy if you have lots of windows open and you want to access your desktop without closing everything.  Simply hover your mouse over the rectangle on the bottom right hand side of your screen to view the taskbar and click the rectangle to access your desktop. Unclick to go back to your windows. What did we do before it?

show desktop

Snipping Tool

This is such a quick and easy way to make a screen shot to annotate, save or email. Screen shots are really handy when you’re capturing images of your desktop for blog posts (see below!). I’ve also used screen shots to email someone a computer error, capture an important Tweet and create instructions for handouts among other things! Simply type “Snipping Tool” into your Start Menu to find this feature and don’t forget to pin it to your Taskbar, you will probably be using it a lot!

snipping tool

Learn more about Snipping Tool here.

What are your favourite Windows 7 features?

Are there any features you’d like to see in the next version of Windows?

Are you on LinkedIN?

Recently I read on the oz-teachers mailing list a warning for teachers about using social networking sites unprofessionally. This UK article, suggests that teachers should be cautious of what they post online and check what information is available about them. Teachers are warned that schools are scouring social networking sites and googling potential candidates for school positions.

This warning is not of concern to me. I am very wary about thinking before posting. I use Facebook in a limited way, while using Twitter for entirely professional reasons.

Unfortunately, I do know a number of teachers who need to take heed of the warning, who use social networking in a less than professional way. As a sidenote, this recent post on the Edublogger blog is a great resource for teachers wanting to use Facebook safely.

Roland Gesthuizen responded to the warning on the oz-teachers mailing list by pointing to an article in the New York Times. It concurs with the UK article that professionals do need to be careful of their online presence but offered a handy piece of advice.  As Roland puts it:

If you create for yourself a LinkedIN account and keep it purely professional, sharing only what public information is already out there about you as this gets pushed up to the top of any search request. Much better to do this than trying to hide under a rock after burying all your Facebook and Twitter references.

The New York times article also points out that:

Adding such entries can also help people who have little or no presence online, as that can be viewed with suspicion these days.

After reading this advice, I set up my LinkedIN account. This diagram summarises what LinkedIN is all about (click on the image to enlarge it).

LinkedIN

While I am not sure how much I will get out of using LinkedIN (I’m still figuring it all out), I know it can’t hurt to strengthen my digital footprint. The fact that many inspiring educators are also on LinkedIN makes me think that it is a good idea to be involved!

If you’re on LinkedIN already, add me to your network. This is the link to my profile.

What are your tips for maintaining a positive digital footprint?

Are you on LinkedIN? How do you use it? Share your tips!

Keeping up with Blogs

I became a proud iPad 2 owner this week and it’s been a steep learning curve to learn as much as I can about my shiny new tool!

After getting my iPad I was inspired to work on updating the blogs in my Google Reader.

I know I’m not alone in being a little neglectful of my Google Reader from time to time, but it is a very useful tool.

If you are unfamiliar with Google Reader, you can find out more about it here. In a nutshell, Google Reader captures all of the new content from your favourite blogs and websites so you don’t have to be checking them all the time. Google Reader describes itself as a “personalized inbox for the entire web.”

One of the reasons I was neglecting my Google Reader is I had too many blogs in there and I guess it became a case of “I don’t want to look as I know how many unread items I’ll have!”

I have now condensed my Google Reader to include blogs that I have a particular interest in and connection with.

Using Flipboard and Reeder on my iPad, I hope to keep more up to date with all of my favourite blogs!

There are so many fabulous education blogs out there and along with Twitter, reading blogs is my top form of professional learning.

Image: 'Flipboard' http://www.flickr.com/photos/38305415@N00/4818276266

Image: 'Flipboard' http://www.flickr.com/photos/38305415@N00/4818276266


Blogs I Subscribe to via Email

I like these blogs so much that I don’t want to miss any of their posts. I have signed up get new content delivered to my inbox.

chrisbetcher.com – Chris Betcher is an ICT integration teacher in Sydney and always produces interesting and well written posts.

whatedsaid.wordpress.com – Edna Sackson is a Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator at a PYP school in Melbourne. Her posts are guaranteed to make you think!

langwitches.org/blog – American teacher/consultant Silvia Tolisano and I share a passion for globally connected learning and I have learnt a lot from her posts.

teachingliteracy.global2.vic.edu.au – I team teach with Kelly Jordan so I can’t miss any of her blog posts about literacy in junior primary.

ilearntechnology.com – Kelly Tenkely, an American teacher/consultant, never fails to be on top of the latest web 2.0 tools. Always something new to learn.

theedublogger.com – if you’re into blogging, this is a must read. Everything you need to know about educational blogging by Australian member of the Edublogs team, Sue Waters.

Blogs in my Google Reader

Blogs about Education and Technology – I prefer to follow blogs that are updated fairly frequently (but not daily!) and I enjoy following blogs from people I “know” on Twitter. It usually doesn’t take long to figure out whether a blog has a style and content that appeals to you.

Class Blogs – there are some class blogs I like to keep abreast of such as Mrs Yollis’ class blog, Mr Salsich’s class, Mr Avery’s classroom blog, Open the Door to B4 and A Peek Inside.

Student Blogs – Sue Waters has an excellent post about how to add student blogs to a folder in Google Reader. While I don’t have any current students blogging just yet, I do like to keep track of my former students who are still blogging such as Rhiannon and Bianca.

Vanity Alerts – If you’re active in the online world, you might like to set up vanity alerts to keep track of your name or sites being mentioned. This is good to form relationships, satisfy your curiosity and monitor plagiarism.  Sue Waters describes in this post how to set up these alerts using various online tools and Google Reader.

New bloggers – I like to support new bloggers where I can and Google Reader is a good way to do this. Two new blogs I have enjoyed lately are PrimEd by third year out graduate teacher, Kirby Goodey and An Aspiring Primary Teacher by student teacher, Ashley Azzopardi. Both Ashley (@ashleyazzopardi) and Kirby (@KirbyGoodey) are active on Twitter too.

Finding other Blogs

I have found that Twitter is a fantastic way to keep track of other “must-read” blogs. Popular blog posts are often retweeted and easy to find out about if you’re a regular Twitter user. Finding out about blogs via Twitter is a bit of a lucky dip but you can find some real gems As Sue Waters said, it is a bit like an (ever changing) buffet!

What blogs do you like to follow?

How do you use RSS feeds or email subscriptions?

What do you use Google Reader for?

How do you Reflect?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Chris Betcher on the Virtual Staffroom podcast interviewing Helen Otway. Helen is an inspiring leader at a Victorian P-12 school. Many of the topics Chris and Helen talked about struck chords with me including the idea of developing a more thoughtful approach to teaching and learning through reflective practice.

There has been a plethora of research on reflective practice over the years. Most people would agree, in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection.

The world has certainly changed since the term ‘reflective practice’ was first coined. This got me thinking, how do teachers and students engage in reflection in 2011?

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Currently, my primary avenues for reflection include:

1. Blogging: This blog is an excellent metacognitive process and avenue for reflection for me. Through the process of creating blog posts, I often “think about what I think” and put those thoughts into words. Through delving into my thoughts on topics and writing about what has been happening in my classroom, I often come up with new ideas and strategies to utilise in my teaching.

Another huge benefit of blogging is the comments. When other educators offer thoughts and opinions on my blog posts, I am introduced to new perspectives that help me reflect further. I think my students are better off for having a teacher that blogs and I couldn’t recommend blogging enough as a reflective exercise!

2. Team teaching: 2011 is the second year that I have been team teaching with Kelly Jordan. Prior to this, my reflections on lessons, student progress and teaching strategies used to happen in an ad hoc manner in the staffroom/team meetings with teachers who were disconnected from my classroom.

Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day (and night!). When we’re not teaching, Kelly and I find ourselves talking non-stop about what our students need to work on, what ideas we could use and how our teaching is going. Our ideas just seem to bounce off each other proving that “two heads are better than one”! Team teaching has been one of the most rewarding and powerful situations I’ve experienced as a professional and I know my students are benefiting from it.

The key to this scenario is that Kelly and I are extremely like minded with our philosophies, drive, work habits, priorities, discipline strategies etc. Our partnership is harmonious and productive. While I love team teaching, I could think of nothing worse than being told who I should team teach with!

3. Time out: I find I have the best ideas and reflective “aha moments” when I take time out from what I am doing.

I have come up with some of my most memorable ideas and breakthroughs when I am running, bushwalking, cooking or even just having a shower! Strangely enough, I have even come up with thoughtful perspectives while sleeping! Time to think is so important for me.

4. Being part of a PLN: I would certainly not be the teacher I am without my professional learning network (PLN). Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. A day doesn’t go by where I am not using Twitter, blogs, podcast, webinars etc to connect with other educators, learn, reflect and improve. When I am pondering an idea, I can use Twitter to get ideas and opinions from people all around the world.

I can hardly believe that the majority of teachers are still relying on the insights of their immediate team or school when there are billions of people out there who can broaden your horizons!

Half of my main sources for reflection wouldn’t be possible without technology!

Students need to be encouraged to reflect as well and introduced to mediums such as blogging, collaborative work, social media or time out as they progress throughout their schooling.

In this video, Dylan Wiliam talks about the importance of students being able to reflect on their learning and how teachers can utilise these insights.

In a similar way, this Stephen Heppell interview discusses how metacognition can help a young person to become a co-producer and explorer of their learning, rather than a consumer.

What avenues do you use to reflect?

How do you encourage your students to engage in reflection and metacognition?